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Bangladesh group says it will blockade roads to demand government neutrality

Bangladesh group says it will blockade roads to demand government neutrality

A major political alliance said Friday it will blockade roads across Bangladesh on Jan. 7-8 to demand government neutrality in coming elections.
Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who heads the alliance, told reporters the group would launch the protest due to concerns that the interim government is not being neutral.
She also threatened to boycott the Jan. 22 elections if there was not a "congenial atmosphere" for joining the polls.
The alliance has accused interim President Iajuddin Ahmed of running the government under the influence of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who stepped down at the end of her term on Oct. 29 to allow the caretaker administration to prepare for the elections.
"If we don't see any major development by this time (Jan. 7), we'll boycott the election under this president," Hasina said. "But still we want to contest _ I don't want to flee the battlefield."
The alliance has been demanding the removal of some election officials, accusing them of favoritism toward Zia's four-party coalition. It has also demanded changes in some top bureaucratic posts, and an update of a flawed voter list.
Earlier this month, a report released from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute said 10 million names on the current voting list _ 13 percent of the country's 93 million voters _ were "errors" or duplications.
The Election Commission has taken steps to correct and update the list, but the alliance has said the measures are not enough.
The situation was further complicated when the Election Commission on Wednesday rejected the candidacy of a former military ruler, whose party is a key partner in the alliance.
Hasina said the rejection of Hussain Muhammad Ershad's application to contest the polls was politically motivated.
Ershad had planned to run in contests for five parliamentary seats. A single candidate can run for multiple seats in Bangladesh.
The Election Commission was expected to hear Ershad's appeal of the rejection Sunday.
Ershad was army chief when he came to power in a 1982 coup. He was ousted in a popular uprising in 1990, and has since been in and out of jail on various charges.
He faces a return to jail for two years in a decade-old multimillion-dollar (euro) corruption case after the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal of his High Court conviction.
Under the Constitution, a person jailed for at least two years for a crime involving "moral turpitude" is banned from seeking elected office.
Ershad's lawyer, Sheikh Sirajul Islam, said Ershad has already served his two years in prison and other cases are pending _ so there is no reason to exclude him.
On Thursday, Ershad's Jatiya Party activists rallied and enforced a general strike across northern Bangladesh _ the party's stronghold _ to protest the commission's decision.
The protests turned violent in Rangpur town, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Dhaka, when activists clashed with police and several people were injured.
Violent protests for electoral reforms since October have left at least 30 people dead and scores injured.


Updated : 2020-12-06 07:19 GMT+08:00